Summary: Pimsleur’s courses primarily focus on oral language. They are one of the biggest names in language learning but was something I had a hard time recommending to people in the past because of the insanely high prices.
They recently added a subscription model with much more reasonable prices and a new app that is much better designed. This review focuses on the new subscription model which isn’t yet available to the general public from the Pimsleur website but you can find it here.
I was really impressed with the quality of the lessons and now that the price is much better, I’m happy to recommend studying with Pimsleur.
The lessons are very well structured and the new app works great
Pimsleur primarily focuses on oral language at the expense of grammar.
The new subscription cost is very affordable.
The lessons focus on oral language which gets students speaking right away.
The lessons are very active. You’re constantly being prompted and need to produce the language you’re learning.
The lessons build upon each other exceptionally well with previously learned material constantly being reinforced.
The app is well designed with lots of beautiful images and interesting cultural notes.
I Don’t Like…
The lessons aren’t terribly exciting.
The written language is much more of an afterthought and not heavily featured in the lessons.
The practice activities included in the premium plan aren’t particularly well done.
Price: A basic subscription costs $14.95 per month and a premium subscription costs $19.95 per month. This is a massive improvement over the old prices which cost as much as $550 for five levels.
You won’t find any information about this new subscription price on their website. The link below will take you to a page with more information on their subscription plans.
Summary: Memrise is one of the most popular language learning apps around. It’s basically a gamified flashcard app. It’s a good way to help build vocabulary and beginner students would benefit the most from it. While it can be very useful, it’s important to not try to use it as your main tool for learning a new language.
The app is extremely well designed, but courses are user-made, so quality can vary.
There are courses covering tons of topics, but you’ll need to use additional resources.
Free and very useful. Awesome!
I Like It uses spaced-repetition software making it easy to learn new words and review them periodically. It’s a bit more fun than traditional flashcard apps. There are tons of different courses to choose from.
I Don’t Like I personally prefer other flashcard apps that are less gamified (Anki or Pleco for Mandarin). It should be used with other resources, not in isolation.
Price: It’s free. The Premium Plan costs $9 per month or $59 per year.
Summary: Created by Idahosa, the Mimic Method’s ‘Elemental Sounds Masters Classes’ are not your traditional type of language learning course as you won’t learn any grammar or vocabulary. The focus is instead on learning the elemental sounds of the language. This is because once you can conceptualise them, then you can train your ear to hear and understand them and afterwards train your mouth to produce and pronounce these sounds. Useful for both beginners and advanced learners, you would obviously need to use it in conjunction with a couple of other resources to progress in your target language.
Easy to use and navigate, the production quality is fine without being amazing.
Quite technical throughout most of the course, Idahosa thoroughly explains the method and sounds in each language.
Very expensive for what it is, I think it is as interesting take at learning pronunciation but you won’t get anything else from it.
Some of the homework exercises are really interesting and quite unlike anything you’ll find on other language courses.
Idahosa goes into quite a lot of depth on how to pronounce the different elemental sounds of each language. At the end of the course you will know all the different sounds from the language that you are learning.
It was a fresh way of learning a language that I had never contemplated before
I Don’t Like…
I found the course to be very technical and while other people will surely find it interesting, it didn’t resonate so much with me unfortunately as it just wasn’t that fun to follow.
You would certainly have to use the course alongside other learning resources which actually teach you the grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, speaking and cultural context of your target language.
You do not get much material for the high price that it costs.
Price: For lifetime access to a course, the Mimic Method website has slashed its cost from $394 to $197 although I am uncertain if it always stays that price.
Summary: Busuu is one of the most popular language learning courses around but it’s not worth paying for. The course content isn’t designed very well and there are better free alternatives. I do really like Busuu’s social features that make it easy to have your speech and writing corrected by a native speaker, but that part is free.
Busuu’s platform is well designed but their lessons aren’t.
The content of their courses leaves a lot to be desired.
Other free apps teach languages better.
The language exchange part of the app is awesome and free to use. It’s really easy to get your speech or writing corrected.
They use video and picture prompts to help you think of a topic to write or talk about.
I Don’t Like…
The lesson structure has you learn some obscure vocabulary before learning the essentials.
You can find better courses for free.
A lot of important things like pronunciation and grammar are left out or barely explained.
Price: A subscription to Busuu costs $9.99/month or $69.99/year.
Languages: Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, and English
Summary: Babbel is an affordable language learning tool that offers a lot of information and can be of great help to beginners and lower intermediate students. They structured the lessons very well, providing explanations and a lot of vocabulary for their students. The materials are easy to go through and fairly engaging. It’s not my favorite resource around but it’s not bad either.
Through its repetitive lesson structure, Babbel offers a solid starting point.
Babbel offers comprehensive and extensive lessons; they’ll work well for any beginner student.
The price is very reasonable.
I Like… Repetitive nature of the lessons
The lessons are connected and they build up your knowledge in a progressive way
Engaging content and comprehensive lessons
Flexible learning plan and self-directed – you have can choose what to learn and when to do it
I Don’t Like… No downloadable materials
Not a very unique learning structure, similar to Duolingo (matching words to images)
Won’t sufficiently develop your conversational skills
Price: The price for a personal plan varies depending on the length of the subscription. One month costs $12.95 and the price falls to $6.95/month if you purchase a full year. There are also 3 and 6-month plans as well.
Languages: German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Indonesian, Russian, Danish, Norwegian, and English
Duolingo and LingoDeer are two free alternatives to Babbel that are fairly similar but don’t cover the content with as much depth.
It’s hard to give the best alternative for Babbel because it depends so much on the language you’re studying, along with your own preferences. We’ve really liked Italy Made Easy for Italian, Baselang for Spanish, ChineseFor.Us for Mandarin, Rocket French for French, and Semantica for Portuguese.